March 20 2020
When remote working is business as usual
With most of the U.K. encouraged to ‘work from home’ during the Coronavirus pandemic, teams have been separated and isolated like never before. Whilst many of us get used to multiway video calls and our new home offices, some F-lexers and Clients have been practicing this way of working for a while. We catch up with Louise Wolfson, Legal Counsel at gunnercooke and Kemi Feyisetan, F-lex Paralegal to learn more…
Hello and thanks for agreeing to help us with our blog. Lots of lawyers and paralegals are adapting the way they work because of the pandemic, many for the first time. Louise, tell us about Gunnercooke’s flexible working story...
LW: Gunnercooke was founded in 2010 as a challenger law firm and one of the areas we challenge is how lawyers work and balance their lives. As a gunnercooke lawyer, you have the freedom to work where you want, to do the work you want to do and to earn as much as you are able to. This means you can decide your own targets, pricing structure, colleagues, clients, working hours and working location.
As a Legal Counsel in the Corporate team, my job entails mainly portfolio and transactional corporate work which means that I rarely go into the office at gunnercooke, and at the other entities I work for. Therefore, in the context of the recent pandemic it is ‘business as usual’ for me, as most of the work that I do is remote or spent out at client meetings.
Louise, tell us about the role you required at gunnercooke and why you considered a F-lex paralegal?
LW: I required someone to work on a company incorporation. The tasks included proofreading, preliminary work, filing with Companies House, post incorporation amendments, the preparation of agenda and minute writing for the Board meetings. I was looking for someone with experience of Companies House and someone comfortable with remote working as the nature of the work did not require physical meetings.
I had assumed this work would require a junior lawyer so we were very pleased when F-lex found a Paralegal that could meet our requirements.
Kemi, you’ve been working at home for several weeks now on your F-lex placement with gunnercooke’s corporate team. How have you found the experience?
KF: When I got the role with Louise, it was the perfect choice for me as I was considering starting on the ICSA exams and I needed a role that provided me with the opportunity to work, study and continue to volunteer with the Merseyside Law Centre.
I have absolutely enjoyed working with Louise. It still feels a bit strange, never having met her in person as she is in London and I am in Liverpool. However, we started out with the basic ground rule that I was not to contact her clients without her knowledge so she was copied into every single email. If I thought to request anything from a client I would let her know first, then copy her into the email to the client so she was kept abreast of everything. I was also copied into emails that did not directly involve me, so I was aware of how the project was going. I knew without being briefed, if there was a lull for any reason and when things were starting up again. We had each other’s phone numbers and would call if clarification was required or she felt further explanation was necessary. She also had my personal email which she would use if she needed me to check my Gunnercooke email urgently.
Everyone at gunnercooke has been very helpful. I was given an email address and an app so could I dial into calls and Board meetings, and the IT team were quick to support me when I had problems accessing my email account. There were some challenges around making payments and claiming expenses but we did manage to get around that and things were much easier the second time around.
Louise, many lawyers wrongly assume that supervision of paralegals can only be done sat side by side in an office. How do you manage supervision remotely with Kemi?
LW: Kemi’s previous experience of Companies House means she has been able to work quite autonomously. I am able to supervise her work by checking and making amendments to important documents that she has drafted. We also regularly stay in touch via email, calls and texts. There hasn’t been much time-constraint on completing the work, or any urgency from the clients, which has helped too. I’ve been able to send Kemi something which she can complete a week later, giving her the extra flexibility to fit in the work alongside her other commitments such as her family.
My experience with Kemi shows that the traditional concept of in-office supervision with a paralegal and lawyer sat side-by-side can be challenged. I think the Coronavirus pandemic will force people in the legal sector to reflect and think differently about how we work in the future.
In a few words, what are the best parts of flexible working?
Louise: sometimes I miss the atmosphere of being in the office but overall flexible and remote working enables me to fit in work alongside my life.
Kemi: being able to fit the work I had to do for Louise with other things I have going on. She knows I have to do the school run between 3pm and 4pm everyday and I fully appreciate how she was able to fit things around this schedule.